This blog post comes from CBF-Endorsed Chaplain, Paul Byrd in celebration of Pastoral Care Week. Chaplain Byrd is a staff chaplain at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, where he has served for the last 10 years.
Late one evening I was called to the bedside of a young patient who was being transferred to the intensive care unit. I knew the family well and went in to see if I could offer any assistance, comfort, perhaps a prayer. The patient was in bed and his parents were doing a good job of offering comfort to him. I was with them at least ten minutes before I noticed movement behind a chair. Out of the corner behind the chair popped the head of the patient’s 9-year-old sister.
During the course of the next 30 minutes with this family, the patient’s sister would disappear and reappear three other times. Under a sink. Behind a door. It took a little time before I caught on, but in hiding, she was saying something: “Hey, over here, I need some attention too. I’m lost and afraid, and I don’t understand. Can you find me in the midst of all that is going on? Because I need to be found.”
She couldn’t express these feelings in words – she didn’t know how to ask for what she needed in any other way than to play it out. Later, I was able to call the parent’s attention to their child’s hiding and suggest to them that she was trying to tell them these things.
During the next few days of the patient being in the ICU, her parents were able to pay some attention to the sister. They were able to invite friends her age to come to the hospital and be with her and their pastor was able to spend time with her. Her father told me that he was able to set some time aside to take her to lunch and how, walking to the waiting room to get her, he found her hiding behind a column. The dad, beaming with joy, said: “Paul, I was the one who got to find her!”
In the middle of a family’s most difficult time, a father found his daughter, not just physically but really found her, seeing her needs and non-verbal request for love, attention, and reassurance. It was a beautiful thing, and both daughter and father were healed just a little bit by it.
Psalm 139 says: “You have sought me and known me!”
We all need to know that someone is looking for us, and can find us when we are feeling lost, alone, and afraid.
The thrill of my job for me is getting to be a small part of helping children and families in crisis find one another and God’s presence.